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The 1969 moon landing was the culmination of John F. Kennedy’s challenge to the nation’s scientists. Fifty years later, we asked local thinkers what our next big, collective goal should be.

My “moonshot” for today would be arts centers across our country becoming America’s town halls for the 21st century. Our future depends on the active cultivation of collective space where we can practice compassionate citizenry in wrestling with the most pressing issues of our day.

— Diane Paulus , artistic director of the American Repertory Theater

After finally receiving sustainable, full funding and unwavering public support for students, families, and educators, public schools across the nation are institutions of equity, joy, and prestige that everyone is proud to be a part of.

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— Jessica Tang, president of Boston Teachers Union

We need to understand how the Earth system responds to environmental change. This requires innovative monitoring of the modern environment, detailed analyses of environmental disruption and mass extinction in the past, and development of theory that predicts the risk of future catastrophe.

Daniel Rothman, professor of geophysics at MIT

To be blunt, today’s equivalent of a moonshot is an affordable, unsegregated, nongentrified City of Boston. One that actually works for all.

— Vikiana Petit-Homme, regional director for March For Our Lives and incoming freshman at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Universal higher education for the first two years. Tuition, fees, books. Paid.

— Pam Eddinger, president of Bunker Hill Community College

A country that’s cut carbon emissions 50 percent by 2050, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends. It’s hard — more like landing the whole population on the moon — but by no means impossible.

— Bill McKibben, author and environmentalist

Today’s moonshot would be the same moonshot as the one 50 years ago — but with a goal of staying on the moon. We have made such amazing progress in space tech but haven’t hit our previous goal in 50 years. It is time to fix that.

— Harper Reed, technologist and former chief technology officer for the Obama 2012 reelection campaign

A giant leap toward economic mobility — defined as the chance for all Americans to earn a family-sustaining wage from work that offers purpose, satisfaction, and value.

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— Elisabeth Babcock, chief executive of Economic Mobility Pathways (EMPath), a charitable organization that seeks to help low-income families

All children — regardless of race, ethnicity, legal status, or family income – will have the support and opportunity to thrive and the preparation necessary to succeed as adults. This will require a nationwide commitment to place children’s well-being at the center of key public and private sector decisions, from economic and workplace policies, to health care and education, to protecting the environment.

— Carol Emig, president of Child Trends, a research organization focused on improving the lives of children and youth, especially those who are vulnerable

The transformation of our food system such that we eliminate the incidence of diet-related chronic diseases and inflammation. The practice of regenerative medicine such that the negative medical consequences of biological aging cease to exist.

— Ed Gaskin, founder of Sunday Celebrations, a company that focuses on “Good for You Gourmet” food

The American legal system is stacked in favor of the wealthy and powerful. We need a civil Gideon and a justice system that works for all.

— Sejal Singh, Harvard Law student and founding organizer of the People’s Parity Project

I think our “moonshot” is upon us: blunting, avoiding, mitigating the effects of human-driven climate change. A comprehensive effort would be the work of the next 50 years at least, possibly including a serious effort to colonize Mars (as terraforming test lab and . . . gulp. . . Plan B).

— Joshua Boger, founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals

Stopping the slide toward the apocalypse of climate change: organize a “Manhattan Project” of 1,000 scientists to develop solutions, sign up 10 million worldwide to be in a Climate Change Corps (CCC) to carry out plans in every country, and each household setting goals and making pledges.

— Lewis Finfer, co-director of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network, an advocacy group that has supported increasing the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, and other issues

A quantum computer to solve otherwise impossible problems in chemistry and materials science.

— Chad Rigetti, quantum computing physicist and the founder and chief executive of Rigetti Computing

Protect and restore coastal ecosystems as a solution for climate, food security, and safety. Wetlands and mangroves can absorb five times more CO2 than temperate forests, serve as nursery habitat for fish and lobsters, and provide better storm protection than sea walls.

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— Ayana Johnson, marine biologist and founder and chief executive of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm focused on conservation

It comes down to curing cancer or ending single-use plastics in the next 10 years. Not sure which is better. But I know they both have to be done.

— Hank Willis Thomas, artist and creator of the forthcoming memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King on Boston Common

“The further exploration of black holes by NSF’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, EHT [the Event Horizon Telescope Project] and tools yet to be invented may answer outstanding questions about the origin, structure, and evolution of the universe — even unlocking the enigma of dark matter.

— France Córdova, astrophysicist, former NASA chief scientist, and director of the National Science Foundation

I believe that the great challenge that we face and must tackle is the racial and ethnic wealth inequality in our country. I believe that we must accelerate the liftoff of our political will to change policies that hinder our ability to eliminate this stubborn gap.

— Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, chief executive of Inquilinos Boricuas e n Acción, an organization that supports education, workforce development, arts programs, and affordable housing

Without a doubt, I think the next moonshot should be an all-out effort to “Make America Renewable.” If we can reach the moon, we can definitely harness the sun, the wind, and other renewable energies — becoming the planet’s first zero-emission nation.

— Jorge Vega, writer-in-residence at Boston Public Library

Interspecies communication — this will enable us to understand and communicate with members of other species, for example to understand what whales are communicating through their song, etc. Intelligent clothing that will monitor our bodies (1) to ensure we live well and (2) to detect the emergence of a disease.

— Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT

The body has the amazing natural ability to heal itself through the immune system. It would be amazing to learn how to teach the body how to heal itself from major diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.

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— Kai W. Wucherpfennig, chair of the department of cancer immunology and virology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute


Compiled by Michael Levenson of the Globe staff